Carrie Lam admits deficiencies in national education, vows to step up efforts for students

  • The Chief Executive responded to a query in Legco regarding what elements were missing when it came to promoting patriotism in the classroom
  • She said Hong Kong residents lack national identity and awareness

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Flag raising at Gertrude Simon Lutheran College at Yuen Long during the National Security Education Day.SCMP / K. Y. Cheng

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has vowed to step up national education efforts for Hong Kong students, after admitting that it was an “undisputed fact” there were “deficiencies” in promoting the topic.

Lam’s remarks on Wednesday came weeks after education authorities issued sweeping guidelines to schools on awareness and teaching pupils about national security, while top Beijing officials have been pushing the city to do more in instilling patriotism in young people.

“There are indeed deficiencies in our national education, which is an undisputed fact, and the government is determined to make improvements,” Lam told lawmakers.

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She was responding to pro-establishment lawmaker Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung during a Legislative Council question-and-answer session, on what elements were missing in the current education system when it came to promoting patriotism in classrooms.

Lam added: “Even if Hong Kong is able to secure various policies in the Greater Bay Area, such as the [Shenzhen-Hong Kong] stock connect, when Hong Kong residents and especially our next generations lack national awareness and identity and do not support integration with the mainland, all these policies will amount to nothing.”

The government would be “enhancing national education on all fronts” starting in schools, she said, citing the example of the recent overhaul of the controversial liberal studies subject, under which a new focus on national development and patriotism would take up more than one-third of the adjusted syllabus.

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But while referring to the subject being renamed “citizenship and social development”, a move endorsed by curriculum advisers last month, Lam erroneously called the new title “national and social development”.

In recent years, pro-Beijing figures have blamed the mandatory HKDSE subject as biased and responsible for radicalising youth, pointing to it as the cause of escalating violence from young protesters during the anti-government protests of 2019.

Top officials from Beijing, including Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Xia Baolong, meanwhile, have highlighted the need for patriotic education for young people and implementing the principle of “patriots governing Hong Kong” for educators.

China’s latest 14th five-year plan, which sets out the country’s major political and economic goals for 2021-25, had also mentioned strengthening patriotic education among young people in Hong Kong and neighbouring Macau.

Last week, the Education Bureau rolled out new sets of guidelines for infusing national security education into eight secondary school subjects including business and accounting, information technology, chemistry and physics.

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